cover image Heart of the Comet

Heart of the Comet

Gregory Benford. Spectra Books, $17.95 (468pp) ISBN 978-0-553-05125-4

To celebrate the rturn of Halley's comet this year, two of SF's best young writers have collaborated on this long, intriguing but ultimately depressing novel that begins with the next fly-by in 2061. An ambitious expedition uses the iceball as a natural spaceship but their discoveries soon include a deadly viral lifeform that decimates the crew. Then, the already volatile conflicts between factions explode into violent confrontation as the Orthos attack the genetically enhanced Percells. Against this background, the novel highlights the love affair of biologist Saul Lintz, who helped create the Percells, and Percell computer engineer Virginia Herbert, who is pioneering a biologically based computer possessing genuine artificial intelligence. Although they eventually save the mission from itself and a hostile Earth, the multiple examples of mankind's perversity make this a frustrating experience. 40,000 first printing; $40,000 ad/promo. (March)